More passengers flying with Columbia Regional Airport

The number of residents using Columbia Regional Airport has nearly tripled since 2011.
A Northwest Airlines employee marshals a plane before departure at the Columbia Regional Airport. Maneater File Photo

Usage of Columbia Regional Airport is on the rise, with 29 percent of Columbia air passengers choosing the airport in 2014, compared to only 11 percent in 2011, according to a report from the Airport Advisory Board. The city’s goal is 40 percent by 2020, Mayor Bob McDavid said.

So far this year, over 86,000 people have flown in and out of the airport, according the report. At the same time last year, the report stated only 68,000 had done so. Greg Cecil, a sitting member on the board, said the increase this year is primarily because of larger aircraft being used on the flights to and from Chicago.

The new aircraft, an CRJ-700, is able to seat 15 more passengers than the smaller ERJ-145, which was previously used on the route. The increase from last year is also due to an addition of a second flight to Chicago in April of last year, Cecil said.

“I was surprised that American (Airlines) didn’t have two flights to Chicago from the beginning,” Cecil said. “It’s usually the place that most people want to go.”

When it comes to meeting the city’s goal and making Columbia Regional more affordable and convenient for Columbia residents, many factors are beyond the city’s control, McDavid said.

“We’re going to continue to promote the airport, of course, but the decisions about how big the planes are, how many flights we have and where they go are ultimately market decisions that are left to the airlines,” McDavid said. “As long as we fill the planes, and as long as it’s a profitable place for American, they’ll continue to increase their choices.” Cecil said he hopes the airport will continue to add flights to new locations and said a flight to Charlotte has often been the subject of conversation on the advisory board. “We’ve seen the kind of demand that that would make it sensible to go there. But a lot of it's just a matter of waiting," Cecil said. McDavid also said the city would also wants new flights added to the airport’s offerings.

“There are destinations I’d like to see,” McDavid said. “The next major hub, from a practical standpoint, would be Charlotte. It would make sense for a lot of the (Southeastern Conference) destinations. We’ll just wait and see what happens.”

Both McDavid and Cecil agree the airport is valuable to Columbia and MU.

“We entertain job-creators and investors from Asia, and the University of Missouri has a significant number of international students from all-over the world,” McDavid said. “They all need convenient access to Columbia, and the airport gives them that.”

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